worst dictators

Worst Dictators & Tyrants

Worst Dictators and Tyrants All-Time List

Compiling ADDucation’s list of the worst dictators and tyrants of all time hasn’t been easy nor fun but we think it’s important to learn from the past. History may recognize a handful of “benevolent dictators” but most dictators are also tyrants who oppressed the populations under their control. You can help us improve this list by suggesting other worst dictators BUT make sure the answer to ALL of the questions below is NO. If not maybe they’re a just a bad leader, monarch or emperor.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ): What's the Difference Between a Dictator and a Leader or Ruler?

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Name of Dictator Country / Group Born Died Age on Takeover From To Dictator is Responsible for… Estimated Victims
al-Assad, Bashar Syria 1965 34 2000 During the ongoing civil war in Syria since 2013 Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the bombing of his own population. He stands accused by the UN of war crime for the chemical weapons attack which killed 1,400 people in Damascus suburbs in 2013. 130,000+
al-Assad, Hafez Syria 1930 2000 41 1970 2000 Hafez al-Assad created a cult of personality around himself and his family and maintained control of the one party state by putting state security and intelligence services in the hands of the Shia Islam Alawites. 10,000
bin Laden, Osama Al-Qaeda 1957 37 1994 2011 Osama bin Laden was involved in the 1988 Gilgit Massacre in Kashmir and eventually admitted responsibility for the September 11th attacks in tapes aired by Al Jazeera in 2006. 4,000
Castro, Fidel Cuba 1926 2016 33 1959 2008 Fidel Castro jailed innumerable critics and dissidents and eventually handed power to his brother Raúl Castro in 2008, due to illness. 1,000
Ceaușescu, Nicolae Romania 1918 1989 47 1967 1989 Dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu consolidated power by jailing thousands of political opponents and sending many others to psychiatric hospitals. He suffered from paranoia and anointed himself “Conducător” and oppressed the Romanian people. 60,000
Chiang Kai-shek China 1887 1975 41 1928 1975 Chiang presided over purges, political authoritarianism, martial law and is named as responsible for the February 28 (2/28) massacre in 1947 (disputed by some scholars). 10,000
Duvalier, Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Haiti 1951 2014 19 1971 1986 Dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was responsible for the persecution of political opponents, founding of the brutal “Tontons Macoutes” militia. 30,000
Franco, Francisco “El caudillo” Spain 1892 1975 46 1939 1975 Dictator Francisco Franco established a totalitarian one party state after the Spanish Civil War 1936-39, which claimed half a million lives. Franco’s Spain was responsible for political purges, torture, forced labor and executions in concentration camps. 1,200,000
Gadaffi, al Muammar “Colonel Gadaffi” Libya 1942 2011 27 1969 2011 As Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi was responsible for crimes against humanity including the infamous terrorist attack on Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 which resulted in the Lockerbie disaster in Scotland leaving 270 dead from 20 different countries. 5,000
Hirohito, Emperor (Tenno) Japan 1901 1989 25 1926 1989 Hirohito was not only one of the worst dictators but also one of the worst emperors ever. He was emperor during the second Japanese-Chinese War (1937-1945) and responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 which bought the USA into World War II. Historians argue over the extent of Emperor Hirohito’s involvement in Japanese war crimes which killed millions of people. 10,000,000
Hitler, Adolf “Führer” German Reich 1889 1945 43 1933 1945 Adolf Hitler was undoubtedly one of the worst dictators that has ever lived. He was responsible for the persecution and extermination of Jews, Roma (Gypsies), communists, socialists, trade unionists, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, common criminals and others in concentration camps during Word War II. 55,000,000
Hussein, Saddam Iraq 1937 2006 42 1979 2003 As dictator Saddem Hussein was responsible for massacres of Shiites and Kurds and the first Gulf War against Iran between 1980-1988. 1,300,000
Idi Amin Uganda 1928 2003 43 1971 1979 Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was responsible for the persecution and murder of intellectuals, officers and judges and the brutal destruction of entire villages. 300,000
Ivan IV the Terrrible Russia 1530 16 1547 1584 Mass executions and murder of thousands; he was choleric, a sadist, and had a violent temper up to 220,000
Kim il-sung North Korea 1912 1994 36 1948 1994 Korean War against South Korea between 1950 and 1953 3,500,000
Kim Jong-il North Korea 1941 2011 53 1994 2011 Torture, public executions, reign of terror. Accused of Human rights violations by the UN General Assembly in 2011 which have continued uder Kim Jong-il. 3,000,000
Kim Jong Un North Korea 1983 29 2012 In 2014 UN investigation recommends making Kim Jong-un accountable for crimes against humanity. unknown
Kambanda, Jean Rwanda 1955 39 1994 Jean Kambanda was president of a caretaker government in Rwanda and responsible for the 1994 Rwandan Genocide when the from Hutu to Tutsi 800,000
Khomeini, Ruhollah Iran 1902 1989 77 1979 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini fought the First Gulf War against Iraq (1980-1988) and is responsible for the execution of thousands of political prisoners and war criminals. Khomeini founded the Islamic Republic of Iran. 50,000
Kony, Joseph Uganda 1961 26 1986 Tyrant Joseph Kony founded the brutal rebel group LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) including around 66,000 child soldiers. 100,000
Leopold II, King Belgium 1835 30 1865 1909 King Leopold II of Belgium is not only one of the worst dictators but also one of the worst monarchs ever. He was responsible for brutal atrocities (the “Congo Horrors”) against the population of the Belgian Congo. 2,000,000+
Mao Zedong People’s Republic of China 1893 1976 56 1949 1976 Mao Tse-tung aka Chairman Mao initiated the Cultural Revolution which banished most of the intellectuals from universities to the countryside to be re-educated and perform manual labor. 20,000,000
Marcos, Ferdinand Philippines 1917 1989 48 1965 1986 Ferdinand Marcos ruled as a dictator under martial law from 1972 through to 1981 during which time Amnesty International states 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured and 3,240 were killed. 3,240
Mengistu, Haile Mariam Ethiopia 1937 40 1977 1991 Fall of Emperor Haile Selassie 1974; “Red Terror” against regime opponents; imprisonment and torture 1,500,000
Milosevic, Slobodan Serbia, Yugoslavia 1941 48 1989 2000 Balkan conflicts in Yugoslavia; Serbia vs. Croatia (1991-95); vs. Bosnia (1992-95); vs. Kosovo (1998-99) 200,000
Mubarak, Husni Egypt 1928 53 1981 2011 Autocratic reign in a virtually military state, suppressed opposition, brutally crushed the “Arab Spring” uprising in 2011 but he was eventually aquitted of conspiring to kill protesters. none proven
Mugabe, Robert Zimbabwe 1924 63 1987 As dictator Robert Mugabe was responsible for persecution, imprisonment, torture and famine in Zimbabwe. The Gukurahundi massacres, between 1982 and1987, were carried out by Mugabe’s Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwe National Army resulting in the death of at least 10,000 Ndebele mostly civilians. 10,000
Mohammed, Omar Afghanistan / Taliban 1960 2013 36 1996 2001 Tyrant Mullah Mohammed Omar was co-founder and leader of the Taliban, radical Islamic terrorist group, responsible for massacres and the September 11 attacks (9/11) in 2001 terrorist attacks against the USA. 100,000+
Mussolini, Benito “Il Duce” Italy 1883 1945 39 1922 1943 Benito Mussolini took Italy into an alliance with Adolf Hitler and Germany in World War II. Responsible for anti-Semitic racial laws. 1,200,000
Nyýazow, Saparmyrat Turkmenistan 1940 51 1991 2006 Saparmyrat Nyýazow was a totalitarian dictator and megalomaniac (he even renamed January after him), electoral fraud. His successor Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has continued as a totalitarian leader so may be added to this list. 0
Omar, (also Umar) al-Bashir Sudan 1944 45 1989 In 2008 dictator Omar al-Bashir was accused, by the International Criminal Court (ICC), of responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Dafur since 2003. 100,000+
Pinochet, Augusto Chile 1915 2006 58 1973 1990 Augusto Pinochet was dictator of Chile following the violent coup against President Salvador Allende and responsible for torture and murder. 3,200
Pol Pot Cambodia, Red Khmer 1925 1998 50 1975 1979 During the guerrilla warfare in Cambodia dictator Pol Pot was responsible for genocide of the population. 1,200,000
Stalin, Joseph Soviet Union 1878 1953 43 1922 1953 Joseph Stalin is one of the worst dictators ever. He was responsible for systematic executions; forced labor in Gulag labor camp; deportation of entire ethnic groups across Europe. 25,000,000
Suharto, Haji Mohammed Indonesia 1921 2008 46 1967 1998 Muhammad Soeharto was responsible for the mass murder of around half a million people between 1965 and 1966 following a failed coup attempt and human rights abuses including widespread torture, massacres of alleged communists and war crimes in Aceh, East Timor, Papua and the Moluccan islands. 1,200,000
Taylor, Charles Liberia 1948 49 1997 2003 Massacres among own population and creation of a brutal rebel group, civil war in Sierra Leone 300,000
Tito, Josip Broz Yugoslavia 1892 53 1945 1980 Authoritarian government; founded “real socialism” dictatorship; mass arrests after the “Croatian Spring” in 1971 100,000
Videla, Jorge Rafael Argentina 1925 51 1976 1981 Jorge Rafael Videla was dictator of Argentina until after they lost the Falklands war in 1982. In 2010 Videla accepted responsibility for the actions of his military junta which, according to APDH (Assembly for Human Rights), were responsible for the deaths or disappearance of 12,261 people. 13,000

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